Film Narratives of Mass Violence in Indonesia and Kosovo
Acts of mass violence, including murder on civilians, genocide, oppression and wars, can mobilize memories of the involved persons and following generations in a certain historical situation. Acts of mass violence can also create a sort of looking glass of culturally dominant memories that are mediated through stories: told and retold as oral stories through generations, as myths or sagas, or remediated as contemporary documentary film accounts or more fictional film accounts. In these processes of retelling acts of violence, transformations of meanings across time, cultural, social and political contexts and media platforms take place and become contexts for audience reception. This paper explores two examples of narratives that construct memories of acts of mass violence: “Gzim Rewind” (Sweden, 2011, director Knutte Wester) about 1990’s Kosovo, and “The Act of Killing” (Denmark, 2012, director Joshua Oppenheimer) about 1960’s Indonesia. The two films, in very different ways, focus on persons who tell about their involvement in acts of mass violence. Both films use live action footage in combination with fictional elements and settings, and both films also convey personal relationships with the filmmaker-directors, who are based in Scandinavia. In this paper, the two film projects and audiences are examined from perspectives of semiosis (meaning-making) in relation to “genres” in terms of film collaborations in production and distribution practices. The analysis includes how, and why, the audience makes meaning about past events. In the discussion, we consider how mediated memories affect audiences, and the potential of achieving development of present political and cultural understandings of past acts of violence.
Örecomm Festival 2013 Conference Proceedings: Media, Citizenship and Social Justice, 2013